I’m not sure what possessed me to watch this film. I guess I wanted something different to watch and a besides, who doesn’t like a silent movie now and then? I’ve watched plenty of silent movies, why not see what all the buzz was about this film? I mean, it won three Oscars, it can’t be that bad, right? I really wanted to like this movie, but it was a bit painful to watch as it continued. I kept looking at my clock to see how many more minutes were left. Then out of nowhere, it got better and redeemed itself towards the end. Here are my thoughts below. I’m sure my readers have thoughts of their own, but I’m just being honest about mine.
Cast Members: French actor Jean Dujardin played the main character George Valentin, a popular silent movie star. The ever so lovely Berenice Bejo played the rising starlet Peppy Miller. John Goodman played Al Zimmer a movie studio chief. Penelope Ann Miller played Doris, George’s wife. James Cromwell played Clifton, the caring chauffeur to George. There were other actors, but too many to name at this time.
Basic movie facts: This movie won for Best Lead Actor, Best Picture and Best Director in 2012. “Jack” the dog was played by 3 Jack Russel Terrier dogs named Dash, Dude and Uggie. There were throwback innuendos all over the place in regards to Hitchcock and Greta Garbo. The last time a silent movie won an Oscar was in 1929 and that was for the movie “Wings”. George Valentin was loosely based on a real person named Douglas Fairbanks who was good friends with Charlie Chaplin.
Pros: I personally think the three dogs who played Jack the dog did an incredible job in the movie! The acting was good with strong facial exaggeration when needed. I liked how the film gave the 4 corner “shadow” to show you that this was part of the filming process of the two actors. As basic as this movie was in the storyline, there were moments that were unpredictable which I liked. The magazine covers showing Peppy Miller’s face as she rose to stardom were fantastic and very believable. I think one of the most authentic scenes where I felt like I was truly watching a silent film was when the auctioning was happening. I enjoyed how Peppy Miller’s character showed her as being a caring person to George’s character, especially towards the end. The two actors had great chemistry onscreen and that was refreshing.
Cons: As a huge Charlie Chaplin fan, I couldn’t help but notice the difference in the timing of each segment of a scene. I’m not sure if the director was purposefully trying to make this not exactly like a silent movie or to stretch it out to be a smooth modern day black and white film. A real silent film has somewhat choppy film segments where each scene lasts anywhere from 2-5 seconds long, with 10 seconds being the longest they show a character in a scene. I noticed with this film, the scenes lasted as long as 23 seconds each which made it more of a modern day movie. I wish there had been more word texts of what the actors were saying. Half of the time I wondered what they were even saying as I am not a lip reader. I was hoping this film would take me back in time and I’d feel like I was watching a silent movie. There were camera angles and modern day references to movies made today that took away that feeling for me of watching a true silent movie. At one point, the camera moved in an eerily familiar way to a Hitchcock movie (later I found out the director did indeed make an homage to Hitchcock in a scene from the movie “Vertigo”), so that took the 1929 feeling back to the future to the 1950-1960’s. Then there was another scene where cameras at that time of era would not have had miniature people talking up to the main character-computer special effects. Suddenly, I felt like I was watching a 2013 version of Gulliver’s Travels where George is talking to these little miniature people on his table. I felt the camera effects and angles were all over the place which made me feel confused of what era I was really watching, even though everything was in black and white. Another disturbing scene was when Doris, George’s wife throws the newspaper at the dog. I love animals and that was just uncalled for. I understand she was upset, but come on.
Music score: The music was composed by the talented Ludovic Bource and Alberto Ginastera. The entire recording took place in six days in Belgium by the Brussels Philharmonic. The music was nice and went well with the era of the film.
Favorite quote: George Valentin: “Farewell Norma, I never loved you.” At first I thought I read that wrong, but apparently that is really what he said to her in the silent movie as he slips to his death in the sand pit. Notice she didn’t really try to save him after he said those words, I mean she could have thrown in a large stick for him to grab. She just sort of sat there and watched him sink. Ever. So. Slowly.
Audience reaction: None. I watched this at home.
Relatability: The only relatable thing about this movie was when the actress, Peppy Miller goes to a casting call for a movie. I did that a few years ago. I was cast as an extra, but was not able to be in the movie due to a family situation that came up. I can relate to her wanting to be in the same movie as her favorite actor. For me it would’ve been Jeremy Renner, if I had been her, but I would not have gone to the extent she went to literally be so close to him. Other than that, I couldn’t relate to anything else.
Overall, it was a good film, but I came out feeling a bit disappointed at it due to me having high expectations. What do you think? Did you like it? What are some of your thoughts on it. Please let me know in the comments below.